Book Review: “Did They Steal A Million Yet?” by James Crookes

It’s December 2021. But it’s also December 1984. Yes, after the highly enjoyable “Do They Know It’s Christmas Yet?“, Tash, Jamie, and company are back for another crazy ride between two time lines.

Unlike the first book, this one doesn’t have the premise of needing to ensure that a key thing happens so that history isn’t changed. Instead, the story is much more personal to the key characters. It’s a good switch as sticking to key events could have been much more monotonous than this book ends up being.

Again, in terms of style, I found it a mixture of the Diaries of Adrian Mole, The Full Monty, Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, and David Walliams. And like the first book, this one will be most enjoyed by someone who would like to reminisce about what life was like back in 1984. For me, you cannot say 1984 without me thinking of Frankie Goes To Hollywood – and this book has a good number of mentions of them and their music, which will probably give me some additional things to talk about in my book “Frankie Fans Say“. I particularly liked the longer discussion of them, their record label, their single “Two Tribes”, together with the TV programme “Threads“, in helping to set the scene early in the book. I suspect the fact that Crookes himself is from Sheffield, where “Threads” was set and filmed, provided another reason for including a mention of this iconic programme (which also gets a mention in the previous book). While I also lived in Sheffield for 9 years, I have a feeling that there is one thing that Crookes and I wouldn’t be able to agree on, given the mention of a certain part of Sheffield in the opening sentence and inclusion of a particular flying bird in the book. Still, I cannot blame him – I often try to get my sports teams into my writing – I just feel sorry for his choice of team ;-).

While I started off by saying it’s December 2021, the two main time lines of the book are actually 1984 and 2020 – the latter picking up soon after the previous book finishes. Of the many books that I have now read that include discussion of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that both of Crookes books handle it best. I wonder, will Tash and Jamie one day be starting in a timeline such as 2040 and have to go back to 2020, with all the confusion that could bring as they try to ensure they don’t get in the way of the other versions of them going to 1984?

Compared to the first book, there are points where it is a bit harder to follow when (rather than where) we are. But given how confusing things must be for some of the key characters, I think it works and it’s better that it’s left to us to work it out. It’s also clear that with this book, Crookes has set it up nicely not only for a third book, but ways to have additional books beyond that. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I really hope that the BBC (given how much it features in the book) will dramatise the books.

For anyone looking for presents for someone who grew up in the 1980s, “Do They Know It’s Christmas Yet?” and “Did They Steal A Million Yet?” are perfect.

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